What is adoption?

Adoption is the legal process that ends the legal relationship between a child and their birth parents and establishes a new legal relationship between the child and the adoptive parents.

Adoption is permanent unless an adoption order is reversed or discharged, which only occurs in very special circumstances.

What are my rights if I am adopted?

If you are adopted, you generally have the same rights and privileges as any other child.

Can I find out who my biological parents are?

In the NT, the law now permits children and their birth parents to identify and contact each other. If you are under the age of 16 you require the consent of your adoptive parents before you can apply for access to information. Your biological parents may obtain information identifying both you and your adoptive parents once you have reached the age of 18 years.

In the NT, a local adoption (the adoption of a child who is not from overseas) may also be an ‘open adoption’. If there is an open adoption, it means that your birth parents and adoptive parents may have made agreements to exchange information about you (such as through letters or tapes) or made arrangements for you to meet your birth parents. It is useful to find out whether any of these sorts of arrangements exist between your adoptive parents and your biological parents.

How do I get information about my birth parents?

If you are eligible to apply for identifying information about your birth parents, then you must first attend a counselling session with an approved counsellor from any of the Family and Children’s Services offices. After this interview you can obtain forms to get a letter of authorisation from the Adoption Unit to enable you to apply to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for your original birth certificate. Your birth certificate will help you identify your birth parents.

What if I don’t want them to contact me?

If you do not wish for your biological parents to contact you then you can put your name on the contact veto register at the Adoption Unit. To lodge a contact veto you should make an appointment and go to the Unit. Take suitable identification with you. You can also ring the Unit and ask that a form be sent to you so you can lodge a contact veto.  

If you are under 16 it is an offence for your birth parents to contact you without your adoptive parent’s consent (even if you don’t have a contact veto in place).

Can I move in with my birth parents?

After an adoption is made, your adopted parents have full parental rights and responsibilities. That means it is generally expected that you will live with your adoptive parents. You should discuss contacting your birth parents with your adoptive parents. However, you are not breaking any law if you leave home.

For more information about leaving home, see our Lawstuff topic ‘Leaving Home’.

Can my birth parents adopt me again?

Re-adoption is possible but requires the permission of your adopted parents.

Who can adopt me?

Usually, you can be adopted by a person who is not related to you. Only in certain circumstances will the court allow a step-parent or a relative or spouse of a relative to adopt a child. It is rare that the court will allow a single person to adopt.

For a person to be eligible to adopt you they must be at least 25 years old and at least 25 years older than you. They must be no more than 40 years older than you and no more than 45 years older if they have other children (although this age limit can be changed in special circumstances). The adoptive parents must also be residents of the Northern Territory or consider it their home.

What is taken into consideration when my adoption is being considered?

Before the court will make an adoption order it must be satisfied that your welfare and interests are being furthered by the adoption and that the applicants are suitable adoptive parents. If you are over 12 years old then your consent is required before you can be adopted, or the court must be satisfied that there are special reasons why the adoption should proceed that are related to your welfare and interests.

Other factors that will be considered are the health of the applicants, their background, their significant relationships, whether they have any other children, their reasons for wanting to adopt, their lifestyle, their expectations of what it will be like to adopt, their ability to cope with stress and their understanding of issues relating to the your identity and background.

Do I have any rights to inherit my adoptive parents’ property when they die?

Inheritance occurs when someone dies, and their property, for example, their house and money, is transferred to someone else. Parents’ property is usually inherited by their children.

In the NT, once you are adopted into a family, in the eyes of the law you become a child of your adoptive parents. Therefore you have the same rights that a birth child has with regard to inheritance of your adoptive parents’ property when they die (but you have no rights of inheritance from your birth parents).


Last updated 22 September 2010

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